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Plasmodium General

Plastic-podium
Picmonic
Plasmodium is a genus of parasitic protozoa that causes the disease malaria. Malaria is a mosquito-borne illness that is widespread in tropical and subtropical regions across Sub-Saharan Africa and Asia. The Plasmodium parasite has two hosts in its life cycle including a mosquito vector and vertebrate host. The Anopheles mosquito is the causative insect for humans. Malaria infection develops over two phases involving the liver and red blood cells. Initially during the mosquito bite, Plasmodium sporozoites in the mosquito’s saliva enter the bloodstream and migrate to the liver and infect hepatocytes. After a dormant period, the organisms differentiate to thousands of merozoites which rupture the host cell and escape into the blood where it infects red blood cells. Within the red blood cells, the parasites further multiply and can cause lysis of the cells, leading to anemia. Cycles of merozoites escaping and infecting red blood cells leads to the classic symptom of cyclical fever. Other common findings include headache and splenomegaly. Malaria is diagnosed by visualization of parasites within red blood cells on blood smear. Chloroquine prevents development of the parasites in red blood cells and is commonly used for both prevention and treatment of malaria. However, there is increasing resistance to chloroquine in certain geographical areas and individuals that travel to these areas should use mefloquine for malaria chemoprophylaxis instead. 
10 KEY FACTS
CHARACTERISTICS
Protozoa
Propeller-protozoa

Plasmodium is a genus of protozoa, which are unicellular eukaryotic organisms.

Malaria
Malaria-mullet Mosquito

Malaria is a mosquito-borne illness that typically causes symptoms of fever, headache, and anemia. Malaria is widespread in tropical and subtropical regions across Sub-Saharan Africa and Asia, and it is a major cause of morbidity and mortality in these regions.

Anopheles Mosquito
Antennae-fist Mosquito

The Plasmodium parasite always has two hosts in its life cycle, including a vector, usually a mosquito, and a vertebrate host. All the Plasmodium species causing malaria in humans are transmitted by the Anopheles mosquito.

SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS
Cyclic Fever
Fever-beaver on Cyclic Wheel

Malaria is characterized by cycles of fever and chills caused by simultaneous waves of Plasmodium merozoites escaping and infecting red blood cells.

Headache
Headache-lump

Severe headache is a common symptom of malaria.

Anemia
Anemone

Plasmodium parasites infect red blood cells during the erythrocytic stage and multiply within, causing lysis of red blood cells which can lead to anemia.

Splenomegaly
Spleen-balloon

Circulating infected red blood cells are identified and destroyed in the spleen, and can lead to enlargement of the spleen, also known as splenomegaly.

DIAGNOSIS
Blood Smear
Blood Smear on Glass

Blood smears are the most reliable tests for malaria and allows for visualization of parasites within red blood cells if infected.

TREATMENT
Chloroquine
Chlorine-queen

Chloroquine is a medicine that prevents the development of Plasmodium parasites in red blood cells used for prevention and treatment of malaria. However, this form does not destroy Plasmodium vivax or ovale parasites that remain dormant in the liver. Also, there is increasing resistance to chloroquine in certain geographical regions.

Mefloquine for Resistant Types
Meat-loaf-queen wearing Resistance-bandana

For travel to areas where chloroquine resistance is relatively high, atovaquone-proguanil or mefloquine are recommended for malaria chemoprophylaxis instead.

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